Archive for the 'Mammals' Category



Thinking back many years there was a book entitled ‘Masquerade’ written by Kit Williams. It was beautifully illustrated and entertained me for hours. It centred upon the quest to locate a hare made of gold buried somewhere in the British countryside. the illustrations contained clues as to its whereabouts.

In Australia at the back end of last year I didn’t find a golden hare … but I did find a golden rabbit. I’ve never seen this colour form before and it was such a delight to see. In all we saw two of these golden beauties at quite widely separated locations so I’m guessing it must be a relatively common colour form in Victoria.


Hair of the Dog

Stumbling out of our hotel into minus seven degrees of frost took our breath away. But it didn’t take our breath away as much as climbing up the mountain through the frozen heather and snow fields. We must have seen twenty or more Mountain Hares last Wednesday on that crisp blue skied morning, but they weren’t easy to approach. As we ascended slowly up the gullies where the hares were basking in the sun the boggy ice cracked beneath our feet with the retort of a shotgun. Eventually one of these enigmatic animals hung-fast long enough to get a shot or two.



2018 – the best bits

2018 for me set off being a somewhat muted year but rapidly escalated into something as special as it gets. Finding someone special to share my life was a revelation that I didn’t expect. The downside of that is a whole planet separates us. 2019 will be spent putting that right.

One discovery for me in 2018 has been the state of Victoria in Australia. The pull of this part of such a remote continent has been extreme. It’s undulating landscape, amiable weather, compelling wildlife and of course one special inhabitant have made this the most special place I’ve ever been. Australia is just the best. My two months here within 2018 have been the most outstanding part of my personal year. Within that two months Tania has taken me to some fabulous places. Mountains, remote bushland, deep dark eucalypt forests, small islands and open wide beaches. However, one place stands out in my mind as it holds birds that have been a part of my life for so long in the UK. Rare birds. Birds that blew to the UK as waifs and strays. Birds such as Red necked Stints and Sharp tailed Sandpipers. In Victoria, Werribee has a water treatment plant holding these birds in mind boggling numbers. Numbers I could only have dreamed about. Who would have thought a sewage plant would have topped my years best bits… but it has. It even topped the Beluga in the Thames!

But what of my professional year. There have been some great times. Scilly once again was terrific, so was Wales, the Farnes were at their best and the Scottish tours were formidable. Picking the best? … well that’s easy. The 2018 Mammal Tour of the UK. Without doubt the best tour I’ve ever done. Some fabulous wildlife; Minke Whales and Dolphins of three species you could have touched. Red Squirrels, Pine Martens and Badgers at arms length. However, to single out one moment of the tour I would have to go to a small beach at the fishing port of Wick on the Scottish East coast. Reading books from being a child through to adulthood enables everyone to conjure up dreams. Bucket lists. Events to experience. Things to see, places to go. I crossed off number one on my own bucket list on that small beach last May. My guests and I experienced the sight of a Walrus in British waters. OK it’s not the cuddliest looking animal you’ll ever come across. But hell … what an animal!

Roll on 2019. Happy New Year.


Cuddly or what?

A night north of Melbourne in Bendigo paid dividends.

Sitting on a park bench backed by a rising moon and ever brighter street lanterns we watched Grey headed Flying Foxes leave their roost. Beating the air with their broad wide wings they moved out from their daytime trees and out into the farmland and forests to feed. A young girl cycling passed, smiled and wished us a Merry Christmas. It brought it home to me how odd it seemed to be sitting outside on a balmy night in December.

Tania spotted the first Possum as it ran across the lawns and scuttled up a tree. More came down from the tall eucalypts soon after. A Brush tailed Possum will sell it’s grandmother for a piece of apple. Several were tempted close. Endearing animals these small marsupials.



Monotreme extraordinaire

There are two types of egg laying mammals in the world; Platypuses and Echidnas. There are four species of Echidna but it is the Short beaked Echidna that lives over much of Australia. It is without doubt an extraordinary animal. It has a pouch but is not a marsupial. It feeds its young on milk but has no nipples and of course it lays eggs and is covered in course hair and spines.

We saw this one along with several others on Raymond Island in Gippsland during our trip there in November.

I envisaged them being nocturnal for some reason but they in fact only became active when the sun warmed the ground and their prey became active. Although they were very approachable they were as difficult as hell to photograph; their snouts were invariably under the ground licking up ants and termites. Their small eyes were nearly always hidden. However this individual put his head in the air to catch a scent and his eye caught the sun for a moment enabling me to get his best side.



In Oz during January I managed to get a glimpse of one of the rarer terrestrial mammals; but it was only a glimpse. Once prolific over the whole of Australia ‘Southern Brown Bandicoots’ have had a bit of a short straw of late. Introduction of foxes and loss of habitat have decimated populations. However, Victoria still has some good pockets of these cute long nosed marsupials. This month I wanted a better look. We waited and searched a likely area and given they are hard to find, so wick when you do find them and for half the time have their snouts buried in the leaf litter I was lucky to get any sort of shot.


Koalas for Breakfast

When I went to Australia in January I was disappointed to only find a single Koala and that was a-ways-away. Venturing down under this month I thought about generating a bit more luck that we had on the Great Ocean Road and in the You Yangs. I thought a visit to Gippsland would be more profitable.. I couldn’t have wished for more Koalas. No sooner we arrived one was grunting in trees close by. More followed; at the tops of trees, at the bottom of trees, running on the ground, eating, sleeping … they were everywhere. All in all the first day’s tally was well over 30 animals … and a lot of other things besides Koalas too.


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February 2019
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